Paget's disease of the breast
Paget’s disease of the breast is a form of breast cancer that causes distinct skin changes on the nipple.A rare disease, accounting for fewer than 3 percent of all breast cancers, it is named for Sir James Paget, the English surgeon who first documented the condition in 1874. Under a microscope, Paget’s cells look very different from normal cells, and divide rapidly. About half of the cells test positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors, and most test positive for the HER2 protein. Although women with Paget’s disease of the breast sometimes have tumors inside the breast tissue, its most noticeable symptoms involve changes to the skin of the nipple or areola (the darker, circular area around the nipple of the breast), creating oozing or the appearance of eczema. The cancer is typically diagnosed with a biopsy of the tissue, sometimes followed by a mammogram, sonogram or MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Paget’s disease of the breast is not related in any medical way to other conditions named after Sir James Paget, such as Paget’s disease of the bone.
Common symptoms of Paget’s disease of the breast
The main symptoms of Paget’s disease of the breast are superficial skin changes, limited to the nipple or areola, that are sometimes mistakenly dismissed as innocuous. Those symptoms include:
- A skin rash on the nipple or areola, resembling eczema, with the skin developing flakiness, redness or itchiness
- Discharge from the nipple
- A burning, painful or tingling sensation, especially in advanced stages of the disease
- Nipple changes, such as inverted nipples
- Changes to the breast, such as a lump, redness, oozing, crustiness or a sore that doesn’t heal
Paget’s disease of the breast treatment options
The primary treatment for Paget’s disease of the breast is most often the surgical removal of the tumor. Cancers that are diagnosed in the early stages may be treated with breast-conserving lumpectomy, while more advanced malignancies may require a mastectomy.
As with other breast cancers, your care team may recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy or other treatments for Paget’s disease of the breast. Learn more about advanced treatments for breast cancer.